I used to cringe every time my son would insist on having cotton candy. Not only is it almost pure sugar, and a lot of air, he would never finish it. Cotton candy is a treat the appeal of which I never understood. Talking about not getting your money’s worth! Yet, children all over the world have their own version of what we in America call cotton candy. It’s still usually just sugar spun with air. But, some version of the wooly confection goes back thousands of years.
What we call cotton candy, the English, Irish, South African, and most Europeans would recognize as candyfloss. Australians call it fairy floss. In France, they call it Barbe à papa or “Dad’s Beard.”
Dragon’s Beard Candy
There is the Chinese Dragon’s Beard candy, said to have originated during the Han Dynasty, around 206 to 220 AD. Since so many Chinese foods are said to have been invented “for the pleasure of the emperor” we can take this dating with a grain of sugar.
Chinese Dragon’s Beard is actually pulled by hand rather than being spun in a machine. And, the stretched sugar strands are folded up into a sort of cake with filling inside such as peanut and coconut. You can read more about Dragon’s Beard, and a master at making it, at Candy Atlas.
The Korean variant of Chinese Dragon’s Beard candy is Kkultarae, or “Korean Court Cake.” It is very similar to the Chinese version, and the image below is a good representation of either.
Iranian (Persian) kids have their own version of cotton candy, pashmak. It’s made with sugar and sesame or pistachio and, similar to Dragon’s Beard, is stretched rather than spun. It is usually eaten along with other desserts like cakes or ice creams, but sometimes on its own.
Turkish Pişmaniye Candy
Similar to Iran’s pashmak is the pişmaniye, made from wheat flour, butter, and sugar and enjoyed since the 15th century. Flour is roasted in butter and then blende with pulled sugar. Vanilla, pistachios, or cocoa are sometimes added. It is also called keten helva.
See also Turkish Delight.
Other Names for Cotton Candy
Besides the names for cotton candy already mentioned, here are some name in other parts of the world. Thanks to ParisDailyPhoto.com for provding a quick list from which I derived this information.
- Chile: Algodón de azúcar
- Estonia: Suhkruvatt (sugar cotton)
- Greece: Grandma’s Hair
- Hungary: Vattacukor (cotton-wool sugar)
- Indonesia: Gulali (from “sugar”)
- Italy: Zucchero filato
- Japan: Watakashi
- Norway: Sugar Spin
- Peru: Algodón dulce (sweet cotton)
- Singapore: Candy floss
- South Afrikaans: Spook asem (ghost breath)
- Sweden: sockervadd
- Poland: wata cukrowa (sugar cotton)